Sometimes training can be really frustrating. We complete session after session in the hopes that all of these sessions will add up to get us through race day, and those training sessions don’t always make you feel like a million bucks. Some days you may feel tired or sore, while on other days you might throw down your fastest pace yet. There are a myriad of factors that play into your workouts- everything from nutrition and rest to hormonal cycles and stress can contribute to how a training session feels. Judging improvement by day to day sessions can be disheartening when you don’t always get immediate gratification. With that in mind, here are three ways you can observe your overall fitness level improving (or not). Use them as signs that you’re on the right track- or that it’s time to switch things up.
Resting Heart Rate
Monitoring your heart rate at rest is one of the easiest ways to tell if your fitness is improving over time. Fitter people have lower resting heart rates than average, coming in somewhere around 60 beats per minute. Test yours by counting your pulse over 60 seconds as soon as you wake up, before you even move your feet onto the floor. Note your resting rate in a journal and check it every two weeks to see improvement.
Coaches often set improvements tests on a regular schedule to gauge progress. Improvement tests are the same workouts performed under as close to the same variables (time of day, rest level, food intake) as possible. You can create your own improvement tests by noting your RPE (rate of perceived exertion, i.e. how hard the workout felt on a scale of 1-10), your HR, and your time to complete the activity, then repeating it every three months. For me, this workout is typically the same 5k route through my neighborhood, done without looking at my watch during the run so that I’m running off effort, not data. If you’re putting in the training, you should see improvement.
Think back to when you started this journey. What thoughts did you have in your head? How hard did your workouts feel? Now consider your current fitness routine and the effort you put in. How are you feeling about your ability now? What “wins” have you had? What kind of thoughts are in your head? Writing these answers down in a journal may be particularly useful in gauging your mental shift. Go back and review your early workouts when you’re in need of a confidence boost to see how far you’ve come.
Have a question about training for a triathlon? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask! If I don’t know the answer, I will find out. I’m happy to look like an idiot so that you don’t have to.